5 BEST SHRUBS FOR FALL COLOR

Five favorite shrubs for fall based upon my work as a New York landscape and garden designer. Ideal for rooftop gardens and outdoor space in urban areas.

The beauty of fall color surpasses all other seasonal highlights. It's a joy to create a colorful nyc garden design among the grey buildings and early winter skies.  Here are my five favorite shrubs for fall, whether I've planted them on a roof garden, brownstone yard, residential property or college campus landscape. A late-season garden is best described by a landscape designer friend.. "with all the plants flopping over, somewhat disheveled from their perfect summer form, it's as if we're at a party where everyone stayed a bit too long!"


1. Hydrangea quercifolia "Ruby Slippers" / Oakleaf Hydrangea. This is my little gem after 2 years from literally a root. I click my heels three times every time I lay my eyes on it. 

 photo: ©toddhaiman2014

photo: ©toddhaiman2014


2. Vaccinium corymbosum / Blueberry.  After you've enjoyed the dainty white flowers of spring, been snacking on the fruit through the summer, you then get the added benefit of a great show of fall color. Yellow, orange, then wine red. A much better alternative than the invasive Euonymus alata, know as the burning bush.

 photo: carolynsshadegardens.com

photo: carolynsshadegardens.com


3. Callicarpa americana / American Beautyberry.  Beautiful and bold it is! Tiny lavender comes borne in clusters around the stem produce luscious drupes in show-stopping magenta in autumn. It's perfect for planting in the rear of a mixed border when the foreground plantings lose their luster, the little jewels of beautyberry shine. As with many shrubs, if you plant in full sun, your fruit production will increase. 

  photo: ©toddhaiman2014

photo: ©toddhaiman2014

4. Hamamelis virginiana / Witch Hazel.  This native shrub blooms in autumn (rather than the chinese which blooms in winter.) Twisted, spider-like fragrant flowers emerge in pale yellow, while the leaves turn from green to yellow/orange. If you crave flowers and fragrance, this is your plant!

 photo: imamuseum.org

photo: imamuseum.org


5. Amsonia hubrichtii / Threadleaf Bluestar.  Feathery foliage turns to yellow and orange,  moves effortlessly in the autumn breezes. Great texture for a garden designer to work with. While not a woody shrub, I included it as I use it for massing much like a woody.

 photo perennialnursery.com

photo perennialnursery.com


6 and 7, because it is impossible for any passionate plant nerd to limit it to five!

Fothergilla gardenii "Mt Airy"/ Dwarf Fothergilla.  This shrub is native to most lowlands in the coastal atlantic United States. The color shifts from unique blue-green leaves toward brilliant shades of yellow, orange and light red in fall.

Viburnum nudum 'Brandywine'.  From early September through February, this compact 5- to 6-foot shrub has huge clusters of round berries that begin green, then turn white and finally sport all bright shades of pink and blue. And... the foliage turns a rich wine color. Berries are irresistible to birds in the winter when they are foraging for food.

 photo uaex.edu

photo uaex.edu

 The wine red leaves to the left are the Viburnum. They are flanked by Cotinus and Artemisia.  From a roof garden planting I designed.   photo: ©toddhaiman2014

The wine red leaves to the left are the Viburnum. They are flanked by Cotinus and Artemisia.  From a roof garden planting I designed.  photo: ©toddhaiman2014

What are your favorites?